View from the Topside
Bourdais threatening to make it a runaway

   by Rick Benjamin
May 31, 2006

Go to our forums to discuss this article

Can anyone catch Bourdais?
LAT for Champ Car

Just back from Monterrey after my third trip to Fundidora Park for the Tecate Grand Prix last weekend, on my first of two visits to Wisconsin this week to take care of some short track obligations. The story of Champ Car’s sixth visit to Monterrey was clearly Sebastien Bourdais’ dominance of a strong field on a steamy May Sunday afternoon.

While it’s too early to engrave this year’s Vanderbilt Cup with Bourdais’ name, it’s not much of a stretch to think it’ll take a major shift in the competitive structure of Champ Car to see anyone else come away with the 2006 Champ Car championship.

Anyone who’s watched the Frenchman work his magic at the wheel of the Newman/Haas #1 these past couple of seasons would have to admit he’s the series’ benchmark on the racetrack. And after watching the whupping he’s laid on the field at Long Beach and at Monterrey it appears to me he’s only getting better. Newman/Haas continues to give Bourdais a race car that’s without peer at just about every venue and Seb just keeps raising the bar as a driver.

The win at Monterrey means that Bourdais has matched the start of Paul Tracy’s championship season three years ago. Now it wouldn’t be unheard of in racing for a driver or his team to lose the magic…and for another driver and team to find it and make a battle out of the championship. The woods are full of drivers who began a season with a host of wins and great runs only to see their advantage evaporate overnight while another driver finds some magic of his own. But given the recent history in Champ Car and Newman/Haas’ long history of achievement, that kind of turnaround seems a long shot this season.

Just as puzzling, perhaps, is the slow start to the year of Bourdais’ teammate Bruno Junqueira. Bruno has battled back after devastating injuries suffered a year ago at Indy. It’s a small miracle, at least to me, that he’s even able to get into the car much less race it effectively. But while Bruno is qualifying well he’s struggling once the green drops. After being taken out in turn one at Long Beach he’s been unable to keep pace with the leaders at either Houston or Monterrey.

Bruno says that aerobically he’s as strong as ever, but that his rehab might not be complete in terms of strength. The punishing Houston circuit surely wasn’t the optimal place to race for Junqueira, and Monterrey’s heat had to have been a challenge. Here’s hoping having this week off coupled with the return to the Milwaukee Mile this weekend will be just the balm Bruno needs to jumpstart his season.

Paul Tracy is among the Champ Car stars who have to be happy about the trek to Beertown this weekend as well. PT’s strength on ovals is well-documented; after passing pole winner Jimmy Vasser last year, the Indeck-Forsythe 3 car was never headed. A strong run to victory in the Time-Warner 225 could be just the tonic Tracy needs to get his season turned around, perhaps putting the 2003 champ on track to challenge for the title.

The RuSPORT teammates, Justin Wilson and AJ Allmendinger, need to take a leap forward this weekend at Milwaukee. Many preseason estimates tabbed Wilson as the driver most likely to challenge Bourdais for the Champ Car Championship this season. He’s yet to really come to grips with oval racing, while Allmendinger, who has had some success at Milwaukee, needs to break his maiden in the series and grab a win. We’ll see if the RuSPORT squad is ready to meet the challenge of oval racing.

Me, I’m anticipating a Wisconsin battle between Tracy and Oriol Servia, an accomplished oval racer who’ll steer a PKV car carrying a strong Tom Brown setup, a proven Milwaukee combination.

Hope you and yours enjoyed the Memorial Day holiday and we’ll see you on SPEED next Sunday from the Mile.

The author can be contacted at feedback@autoracing1.com

Go to our forums to discuss this article


Columns by Rick

Las Vegas GP Preview

Champ Car Laguna Seca postscript

Champ Car on verge of significant announcements

2007 NASCAR Media Tour Day 1

We enjoy the PRI Trade Show

A joyful holiday season this year for Champ Car teams

Who will have rides in Champ Car in 2007?

Looking ahead to Mexico City

What will Champ Car look like in 2007?

Road America postscript and new 2007 venues

Looking ahead to Road America

Looking ahead to Montreal

 Looking ahead to Denver

Looking ahead to Edmonton - Many storylines

For Allmendinger, life could not be any brighter

A big sigh of relief

Bourdais threatening to make it a runaway

Houston postscript

Looking ahead to Houston

Long Beach postscript

Paul Dana was living his dream

2006 Champ Car seats filling up

A view from the top - Miscellaneous pres-season ramblings

A look at the All-American Driver Challenge

2006 NASCAR Media Tour - Day 4 Wrap-Up

2006 NASCAR Media Tour - Day 3 Familiar Faces

2006 NASCAR Media Tour - Day 2 Toyota announces teams

2006 NASCAR Media Tour - Day 1

Some off-season thoughts heading into the holidays

A look at the collapse of the National Sprintcar League

Champ Car: Miscellaneous Ramblings

Champ Car teams/drivers in transition over the winter

A well deserved 2nd title for Sebastien Bourdais

We look at the benefits of the new Champ Car

Who will win Champ Car's only Superspeedway race?

A look ahead to Las Vegas, Champ Car's only Superspeedway race

Bourdais' winning percentage stacks up with the best of them

Looking ahead to Denver and Paul Tracy's first NASCAR race

Looking ahead to San Jose

Champ Car hits a home run in Toronto

Send F1 far from these shores

Milwaukee musings

May Happenings

Newman/Haas has a good chance to win Indy 500

Sebastien Bourdais and ALMS are making news

Bristol review, Long Beach preview

A look back at Sebring

A peak at Champ Car TV for 2005

IROC is foreign for the open wheel drivers

Rolex 24 Recap: A short day for Champ Car drivers

Champ Car drivers take on other stars in Rolex 24

Champ Car is in the driver's seat

Copyright 1999-2014  AutoRacing1 is an independent internet online publication and is not affiliated with, sponsored by, or endorsed by the IRL., NASCAR, FIA,  Sprint, or any other series sponsor. This material may not be published, broadcast, or redistributed without permission.